Golf and fatherhood. The two go together like peas and carrots.
It’s always struck me as fitting that, more often than not, the final round of the most prestigious golf tournament played, yearly, in the United States concludes on the third Sunday in June, typically Father’s Day. It’s fitting because what dad doesn’t want to spend Father’s Day in front of the TV in the evening watching the back-9 at Pinehurst or Pebble Beach. And what golfer doesn’t want to win that tournament more than any other tournament due to the pure emotion of the day, knowing the person most likely responsible for getting them involved in golf is watching on so proudly. Not to mention, most tour golfers, themselves, are dads.
I can remember watching the late Payne Stewart win his first U.S. Open championship in 1991 at Hazeltine on Father’s Day. At Torrey Pines in 2008, I recall Tiger Woods embracing his daughter on the green as he captured his country’s national championship. Corey Pavin’s family celebration on the 18th green in 1995 and Rory McIlroy’s simple hug with his father in 2011 are two more championship Sundays that stand out in my memory.
I, as many boys growing up did who had even the faintest interest in the game, learned to play golf with my dad. Before I was old enough to really know what golf was or how the game can teach a person valuable life lessons, dad bought me a set of used clubs and we set off to play a nearby Par 3. It was early, the grass still wet for the overnight dew. I wiped my slightly tarnished clubs off while I waited on the porch, as dad finished his coffee in the kitchen. As I “warmed up” in the driveway and acted like I knew what the heck I was doing, I had no idea what would happen when I got to the first tee. I knew I’d try to imitate the popular golfers of that time – Payne Stewart, John Daly, Lee Janzen, Greg Norman. Probably unsuccessful imitations. But I was excited, and I had every right to be. I was going golfing for the first time. With dad.
Life teaches us lessons every day. And if we’re walking around with our eyes open enough of the time, then we learn these lessons. When we golf, we’re forced to take heed of these lessons – or else your 4-and-a-half-hour round will be torturous. You have to adjust on the fly; you have to be strong mentally; you have to be friendly and polite and courteous; you have to be honest; you have to police yourself; and you have to make the best of bad situations (sometimes many, many bad situations).
I’ve played countless rounds of golf – but I can probably count on two hands the amount of times I played alongside my dad. I learned how golf can be an avenue for self-reflection and self-discipline – and I have my dad to thank for that, for introducing me to a game that has the ability to make you a better person. Golf teaches us how to bond with one another; how to help a person that you’re in fact in competition against; and how to have a short-term memory and move on to what’s next.
I’ll enjoy watching the final round at Oakmont, as will fathers around the world. But what I’ll enjoy more is the thought that I can one day teach my son the game and all the values that go along with it. That we can sit together on Father’s Day and watch the drama unfold at the U.S Open. I’d love that. I hope he’d love it too – as much as he loves, well, peas and carrots.